Awakening at UVA

In the fall of 1991, I was a newly-hatched law student at the University of Virginia.  I had recently returned to the States from a year playing rugby and teaching English in Japan.  At UVA, my life was focused on beer and girls — and lots of studying.  My most political act was listening to “Nebraska.”  
One night in late October, I was in my room taking a television break on an old black-and-white mini.  A television ad came on the air.  There was a race to fill the seat of French Slaughter, the recently-passed Congressman in Virginia’s “old” 7th Congressional District.  In the ad, the Democratic candidate — Charlottesville lawyer Kay Slaughter — was being hammered for attending a peace march during the Persian Gulf War.  The ad concluded with her face superimposed over a banner which read “Victory to Iraq.”
The ad was so dishonest that it brought me out of my seat.  The sponsor?  The Republican candidate and local Delegate:  George Allen.
The next day I called the local Democratic Party and offered to be a volunteer.  I passed out sample ballots a week later in a precinct where I knew nobody.  It was my first campaign experience since my childhood in Fairfax City.  George Allen won big that day and went on to bigger things.  I went back to class.  
The only consolation was that night at the Democratic “victory party” I met a guy from Little Rock recruiting volunteers for someone named Clinton who was running for President as a southern Democrat.  He signed me up, and we traveled all over the U.S. the next year.  Twelve months later, I was a precinct captain counting ballots at the same site for Clinton.  He won.
It’s been almost 15 years since I saw that ad in 1991.  I have not missed an election since then.  So you could say that George Allen is responsible for getting me involved in Virginia politics.

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